This article is to share two of my favorite business email writing tips that can instantly improve your communication. They’re easy to implement and work like magic.
Too often when writing business emails, we rush to get down our thoughts and send them on. While we might take care to use proper spelling and grammar in our business email communications, it’s the rare person who thinks about the format of their business emails.
However, taking a quick second to use the most effective formatting for our communication can help ensure that our whole message is understood by the recipients. Effective formatting can also make it more likely that we’ll receive prompt replies to any questions we ask in our emails.
In this post, I’ll explain when to use bullets vs numbers in your business emails. You may have never thought about the difference between bullet points and numbering, but when used in the right situation, each one becomes surprisingly more effective. Make a practice of consciously using these little formatting tips, and make your business email writing more effective.
When to Use Bullet Points for Effective Business Emails
Bullet points are great for conveying information that does not require a response from recipients of your email. They also break up chunks of information. Here are reasons why bullet points are more effective than paragraphs:
- The formatting alone is more pleasing to our eyes, since it creates white space.
- Bullet points prompt readers to pause and digest each small bit of information.
- If you put the same information in paragraph form, email recipients are much more likely to skim and miss a critical piece of data.
It sounds simple and it is. With bullet points, you quickly convey critical information and it is quickly digested. If you repeatedly use this formatting, your recipients will begin to trust you as the person who sends messages that are easily processed.
By using something as simple as bullet points, you subtly convey to your coworkers that you’re an action-oriented person who won’t waste their time.
When to Use Numbered Lists for Effective Business Emails
Like bullet points, numbered lists in emails also create white space that help the recipients of your emails more easily digest information. Numbered lists are ideal for when you are giving a slate of options or are asking recipients a series of questions. Numbered lists are best when you do need a response to several items in a message. Use numbered lists as opposed to bullets, to help recipients more efficiently respond to your requests.
Imagine I send you this email:
I know that you’ve recently been reading about how to effectively format business emails. Please let me know by the end of the day which of the following changes you plan to make to your email communications.
Will you add bullet points when providing chunks of information, or would you consider trying to use numbered lists when giving recipients a series of options and expecting responses? Also, I’d like to know if you will try using numbered lists when asking recipients a series of questions and expecting responses.
I look forward to finding out which changes you will make.
Most likely, you’ll be in the middle of several other tasks when you open my email. Your eyes will roll over the information and you’ll be tempted to punt it and come back to it later, when you have time to really think it through (assuming it was more important than the example above. 😉)
But what if I send you this email instead:
I know that you’ve recently been reading about how to effectively format business emails. Please let me know by the end of the day which of the following changes you plan to make to your email communications:
- Will you add bullet points when providing chunks of information?
- Will you use numbered lists when giving recipients a series of options and expecting a selection?
- Will you go back to your old way of sending information in paragraphs?
- Will you use numbered lists when asking recipients a series of questions and expecting responses for each one?
- Which of the above was your favorite tip?
I look forward to your reply.
I’ve made it easy for you to reply. You can just reply this way:
I’ve made it much easier and faster for you to respond.
In any case, I encourage you to test this concept with your upcoming business messages.
Bonus tip: Do you schedule meetings via email? If so, this post will help: The More Efficient Way to Schedule Meetings.
Just Two of Many Business Email Writing Tips
These are just two of many, many tips I have for writing more effective business emails. But it’s not just writing business emails that my clients need. With the constant flood of information into their inboxes, leaders want me to help them and their teams find a way to stay on top of their work—a way that doesn’t leave them feeling out of control and burned out.
The truth is that in our digital age, knowledge workers need a workflow methodology to help manage all of the information streaming into our lives.
A workflow methodology is not an app or software. It’s a collection of habits, behaviors, and tools for efficiently organizing, storing, prioritizing, and acting on all the details of your work and home life, including email. It helps you live proactively, so you are more productive at work and regain time for your most important personal passions and projects.
If you’re drowning in email, here are four reasons and how to fix them, from the workflow methodology I teach, called the Empowered Productivity System.
Take Back Control of Your Work and Life!
If you want to get back in control of your email inbox and the other details to make your life run smoothly and efficiently, check out my Empowered Productivity System. There are a variety of ways that individuals and teams can learn it. The on-demand training includes video-based modules that are self-paced and include activities for reinforcement, and support is available if you get stuck.
With Empowered Productivity, you not only gain control of your email, but also your life! You’ll be able to focus better on your tasks and get more done.
If you have questions about managing email or Empowered Productivity training, feel free to leave a comment below or send me a message here. I’m happy to talk to you about how you and your team can be more productive and satisfied each and every day.